Category Archives: –SCREVEN COUNTY GA–
I’ve not been able to locate any history of Walker Grove Church, but it is an important landmark of African-American religious architecture and was obviously integral to its community since. A school was located on the same property.
Board walls were paneled and sheet rock and ceiling tiles added at some point in the congregation’s history. There is no air conditioning and since I didn’t locate a chimney I presume there was a flue for a pot-bellied stove somewhere.
A baptismal is located beside the church.
This style was very common among African-American congregations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and I believe the church dates to the early 1900s-1910s.
It was common practice in many African-American communities in early 20th century Georgia for churches to construct schools. This was due to the fact that the state was notoriously negligent in the construction and upkeep of schools for black students. The Rosenwald Foundation and the American Missionary Association were two outside concerns that contributed to the cause of African-American education, but I haven’t been able to link either group to Walker Grove and therefore believe that it was built by the members of Walker Grove Baptist Church. It’s located on the same property. I believe this was built in the 1910s or 1920s.
My identification of this structure is an educated guess, considering it is surrounded by the historic Wade Plantation. It looks to date from circa 1910-1930. It’s possible it was a general store independent of the plantation but this seems unlikely. (There is a location known locally as Hill’s Store just down the road but I don’t think this is associated with it). False front structures are quite rare in rural Georgia and I can’t recall having seen a commissary of this style. The pressed tin is in amazingly good condition, though the structure has likely been neglected for many years.
Brick Church was established on land given by the Reverend Payton Wade and built by enslaved persons from Sam Manor’s nearby Lebanon Forest plantation. Manor’s daughter Sarah was the wife of Reverend Wade, having married him upon the death of her first husband, the Reverend John Crawford. Upon Sarah’s death, Reverend Wade married her younger niece Elizabeth Robert. It’s the oldest extant church building in Screven County. So many early wooden churches have been lost to time, but Brick Church has weathered nearly two centuries. Reverend Wade owned over 500 slaves, and Brick Church counted far more African-American members than whites in the antebellum era. A slave gallery was located around the upper part of the interior but was later removed; the small windows (now boarded shut) along the top of the building are evidence of the gallery. James McBride is thought to have been the brick mason and a Mr. Potter the carpenter. The date the name was changed to Bethel is not confirmed, but thought to be in the 1860s.
A nice old cemetery stands adjacent to the church, the final resting place of numerous Wade descendants and relatives, among them numerous doctors and Confederate veterans.
Behind the church is a beautiful remnant pine forest and Tom Hudson Lake, a reservoir on Rocky Creek named for a former Wade Plantation manager.